With the new Safeway store open, and the summer tourist season under way, traffic continues to increase on Lief Erickson Drive. But it looks as if a traffic light at the 33rd Street intersection won't be in place until fall, Astoria Public Works Director Mitch Mitchum said at Monday's Astoria City Council meeting in response to questions by the council.

Mitchum said there's been less of a traffic problem than anticipated since the Safeway store's grand opening, but nevertheless, it's difficult getting in and out of the parking lot.

"I think all Astorians know that Friday afternoons are very busy with sometimes continuous streams of traffic coming from the east," he said.

A traffic study Safeway submitted to the Oregon Department of Transportation before the store was built, stated that no light would be needed at the intersection to handle additional traffic generated by the new supermarket.

ODOT accepted Safeway's figures, Mitchum said, so the city, acting on its own initiative, commissioned its own traffic study that reached the opposite conclusion.

Based on the city's study, ODOT agreed that a light is warranted there, Mitchum said. So the city commissioned consultants Kittelson Associates to conduct an engineering plan for a traffic light. Kittelson submitted that plan directly to ODOT on June 17.

Cost of the signal, including design, is estimated at about $200,000. The city has funds available for its $50,000 share, Safeway will put up $60,000 and the requirement for ODOT is the remainder, approximately $90,000, Mitchum said. "We are optimistic that ODOT will find money to pay their share."

As soon as funding is secured, work on the traffic signal will proceed. However, time must be allowed for large poles called mast arms, which support traffic signals, to be manufactured to fit the dimensions of this particular installation, which means the light probably won't be operational until fall, Mitchum said.

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